EYR 26 – 30

Chapter 26

Will You? – Part I

Hey guys, if it wasn’t clear in “First of Four”, it’s exactly been a month since the “moment” chapters, and about three weeks after “Reason”. I don’t know why the timeline matters, but there it is. Enjoy.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

(HOW NOT TO PROPOSE)

F4 were sitting in Ah Si’s house the next morning.

Ah Si had moved home after his conversation with Dao Ming Cheng, and had agreed to begin working in the company once more.

Part of the deal had been the mansion. His father had signed over the mansion, and Ah Si now had the power to make sure that his mother never entered the place. She would never sit here and have the chance to threaten Shan Cai and force her out of his life.

Not his life and not his home. Never again.

He had asked Shan Cai to come home with him, but she had refused.

Shan Cai had insisted that they live apart until the wedding. And who knew, if her parents heard they might want to come too, to “just to keep an eye on them”.

After getting used to seeing her everyday, he had begun to miss her more and more.

So, he had decided now was the perfect time to ask her to marry him.

Who knew? She might have missed him enough to say yes.

“Ei Lei, who said you could propose first?” Ah Si asked argumentatively.

“I am the head of F4, I should propose first, right?”

“You were taking too long Ah Si, too slow,” Lei sleepily replied.

“Ei, LEI!” he exclaimed, getting up.

”Okay, enough guys,” Ximen got up to stop Ah Si from advancing.

“What’s the big deal, Ah Si?” Mei Zhuo asked, “you’ll ask Shan Cai today, so it’ll almost be the same.”

“Why don’t we wait to announce our engagement, so in the world’s eyes you guys will be engaged first,” Lei offered, not bothering to tell them that they wouldn’t be announcing their engagement for another year at least.

“Okay, that’ll be fine,” Ah Si conceded, satisfied that the leader of F4 would get to announce his engagement first after all.

“And who knows, Shan Cai might not even say yes,” Mei Zhuo murmured.

“Ei, Mei Zhuo—,” Ah Si began.

“Do you have the ring,” Ximen interrupted, trying to ward off another temper tantrum.

“Yeah, here,” he said, pulling out a bag with the ring and some cards in it.

“Nich, huh?” he asked eagerly.

The ring was . . . unique; pink diamonds, vaguely in the shape of a strawberry.

“What’s this, ‘strawberries’?” Mei Zhuo asked, reading the inscription on the ring. “What does that mean?”

“You’re not trying to ask for her cherry, are you?” Ximen teased.*

“Huh?” Ah Si said, confused.

Mei Zhuo and Ximen started laughing while Lei quietly smiled.

“Forget it,” Ximen said.

“Stop teasing him guys, you know Ah Si can’t keep up,” Lei said.

“Ei, Lei. Did I ask for your opinion?” Ah Si said, lifting a hand to swat at Lei.

“And these, what are these cards?” Lei asked, moving out of Ah Si’s reach.

Will you marry me, Shan Cai?

You are my one, true love.

You make the world go round.

If you marry me, I’ll give you all the strawberries you could eat.

You are the queen weed in our flower patch, and without you our garden would be incomplete.

“One . . . two . . . twelve. Do you really need all these cards? And what kind of quotes are these?” Mei Zhuo asked, holding the cards.

“They’re not quotes, they’re things I wrote. I might forget, so I wanted to practice to get it just right,” Ah Si muttered.

“I don’t want to ruin this moment for Shan Cai,” he said.

The others were silent. Mei Zhuo and Ximen were plainly shocked, but Lei knew exactly what Ah Si was going through.

“Good idea,” he said, sticking his thumb up.

“Dao Ming Si!” Shan Cai called, coming into the room.

She saw the guys sitting around the kitchen table, looking at something on the table.

“Oh, shit! Hide it,” Ah Si said, panicking.

He threw the ring at the guys, and tried to distract Shan Cai.

“Ei, Shan Cai, you shouldn’t really barge in without knocking. I could’ve been naked,” Ah Si shouted at her.

“In the kitchen, with F3?” Shan Cai asked, frowning. “What do you have there?”

She looked at Lei trying to hide something behind his back.

She went around Dao Ming Si.

As she moved toward him, he threw the bag to Mei Zhuo and smiled at her.

Shan Cai huffed and moved toward Mei Zhuo. As she got close enough to grab at the bag, Mei Zhuo shifted and threw it to Ximen.

“Hey, what do you little pigheads think you’re doing?!” she shouted.

She ran to Ximen.

Ximen threw the bag at Ah Si.

Ah Si’s back was turned to the group, in the same position as when he had run to stop Shan Cai. As he felt the bag hit his back, he turned around.

Bending down, he quickly picked up the bag.

“Dao Ming Si, here,” he heard a voice cry out.

On reflex, he looked up and threw the bag toward the voice.

His eyes widened when he realized what he had done.

“Ah Si, no!” F3 shouted, and rushed up behind him.

“Huh, you guys are just too dumb!” she shouted gleefully, and ran out of the room.

The others pushed Ah Si to move and quickly followed. They saw Shan Cai running upstairs with the unopened bag.

They gave chase, hoping to catch her before she locked herself into a room.

They arrived at the top of the stairs in time to see her lock herself in Ah Si’s room.

They heard the click of the lock as they reached the door, out of breath.

“Eh, you stupid woman. Open up the door. That is none of your business,” Ah Si began to bang on the door.

Shan Cai didn’t open the door.

There was complete silence on the other side of the door.

“Shan Cai, don’t open the package. Don’t open it without me! Shan Cai,” he shouted at the door.

The others stood around him, silently giving him their support.

They were shocked at how things had turned out.

Never had a proposal flopped so badly.

The door flew open.

“Ei, you stup—,” Ah Si began.

A hand reached out and grabbed Dao Ming Si by the collar, dragging him inside.

There was complete silence on the other side of the door.

The others stood there and waited . . . waited . . . and waited.

“I think we should leave,” Lei finally said.

Ximen and Mei Zhuo looked at each other knowingly.

“Well, I guess Ah Si will be getting a cherry tonight,” Mei Zhuo began.

“Shan Cai will be getting one too,” Ximen added.

Lei quietly walked behind them. Smiling.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

8:00 A.M.

Rrrriiiinnnngggg

“Wei,” a sleepy voice said.

“She said yes,” Ah Si exclaimed.

There was silence.

“Ei, Mei Zhuo did you hear me? She said yes!”

“Congratulations,” Mei Zhuo replied sleepily.

“She loved my cards, and she loved the rin—”

“Forget that,” Mei Zhuo said, suddenly awake, “How was it? Come on, give me some details.”

Dial Tone.

“Wei? Ah Si? Wei?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

8:02 A.M.

Rrrrriiiiinnnngggg

“Wei,” a wide-awake voice said.

“She said yes,” Ah Si exclaimed. “Wait, who’s this?”

“Xiao You,” Xiao You replied.

“Give the phone to Ximen,” he ordered.

“Wei,” Ximen said into the phone.

“She said yes,” Ah Si exclaimed.

“Congratulations,” Ximen said, laughing. “I bet you feel like the luckiest man in the world.”

“Thank you,” Ah Si said.

“You’re getting married now. You’re becoming responsible for another life . . . unless you didn’t—did you use protection yesterday?

You need to start thinking about this kind of stuff.

I think you should come over so we can talk business. You do want to play it safe until you’re ready for those future generations.”

Dial tone.

“Wei? Ah Si? Wei?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

8:06 A.M.

Rrrrrriiiiiiinnnnnngggg. Rrrrrriiiiiiinnnnnngggggg. Rrriiiiinnnngggg. Rrrriiiiiinnnnnggg.

“Wei,” a grumpy voice answered the phone.

“She said yes,” Ah Si exclaimed.

“Well duh, Ah Si, we all got that when you didn’t come out of the room,” Lei said in an irritated whisper.

“Why are you whispering?” Ah Si asked.

“None of your business. Anything else?” Lei asked.

“I’m so happy, Lei. I finally have the love of my life, and I’m back on the path I had been groomed for. Everything is going right. Shan Cai said yes,” he repeated.

“ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz,” came the reply.

“Wei? Lei? Wei?”

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

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Chapter 27

Moment of . . . Joy?

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One Month Later

“I can’t believe they’re here,” Xiao You muttered angrily.

She was standing in the Maple ballroom, surrounded by hundreds of people, who had come to see the engagement of the Dao Ming heir.

Champagne flutes had been passed around as the moment of the public announcement grew near.

Ximen had moved over to stand next to her.

Mei Zhuo, who had come stag tonight, had closely followed him. Xiao Qiao had failed to make an appearance, though she was supposed to have returned today. His face wore the same rigid expression it had worn for the past two months. He was missing her, and he didn’t want to burden his friends with his misery.

What was meant to be a celebration for one couple had quickly become a celebration for two, when Ah Si had inadvertently let it out that the Hua Ze heir was also engaged to Teng Tang Jing.

Xiao You couldn’t help but laugh when she had seen the shocked looks that had appeared on Lei’s and Jing’s faces when they heard the announcement being made.

Shan Cai had reached over and whacked Dao Ming Si in front of the collected guests, and Dao Ming Si had begun a fight with her right then and there.

The guests had enjoyed the by-now-familiar sight, having seen the famous couple fighting in the streets of Taipei, but all had turned quiet when the Dao Ming parents had stepped into the ballroom.

Shan Cai had frozen.

Dao Ming Si, alerted by the change in her, had turned to see his parents walking toward them.

He had moved forward, to block Shan Cai from their view.

The parents had walked over to the now silent couple, and while Dao Ming Cheng took the microphone from Dao Ming Si’s hand, Dao Ming Feng had moved to align herself with the couple.

The Dao Mings had come to show their support and to solidify their position in the market once more.

Xiao You was steaming with anger as she witnessed the hypocrisy.

“Dao Ming Si should have them ejected from the premises,” she said.

Ximen looked over at his beloved. He understood the anger. She was suffering the pain that Shan Cai was suffering right now, and he didn’t know how to comfort her.

F4 were the heirs to immense fortunes, and with that much wealth and power there were responsibilities. More often than not, once they entered the business world, they would have to do things that went against everything they believed in.

“Ah Si doesn’t have a choice,” he gently explained. “They own the hotel. And this was a part of the reason he returned to the business. Their presence would only quicken the process.”

“Ah Si can control himself,” Mei Zhuo added. “Look at him, he’s even smiling now. He knows that the more they pretend today, the less he’ll have to see them in the future.”

“How can you guys stand this,” Xiao You demanded, her eyes moving over the guests.

Some of the more courageous ones had started approaching Lei and Jing, to offer their congratulations . . . to ingratiate themselves.

“We don’t have a choice,” Ximen simply said.

Xiao You turned to look at Ximen, her mouth opening to ask him “why” when her eye was caught by a figure entering the ballroom.

She opened her purse and quickly pulled out her glasses.

“Oh!” she exclaimed in surprise.

Ximen and Mei Zhuo turned to look towards what had caught Xiao You’s attention.

Mei Zhuo’s face broke out into a big grin.

She was back!

She wore a gown similar to the one she had worn when he had first seen her. Her long, silky hair was pulled back. Her skin glowed, even at this distance. She was beautiful. As he had come to know her and love her, she had become so beautiful.

To him, Xiao Qiao personified perfection.

Without her he had been so lost. Even he hadn’t known how much, not until now. Now, when she was standing so close, he could finally admit how difficult it had been to be without her these past two months.

They hadn’t had as much contact as he would’ve liked. More often than not his messages had gone astray, and he couldn’t even speak to her at their scheduled times. She had refused to allow him to come visit, insisting that he needed to work.

Work.

She was the only one who had such belief in him. While everyone else thought of him as the womanizing, fun-loving Mei Zhuo, she actually believed there was a responsible man under the veneer.

For the past two months he had worked on his surprise. He couldn’t wait to see the expression on her face when she saw this; an expression of his love . . . made for her other love.

Ximen smiled as he looked at Mei Zhuo’s face. He could see the joy on his friends face. It wasn’t just simply happiness, but it was pure joy to see that the one he loved had finally come back to him.

“That’s—,” he turned to explain to Xiao You.

“Pace,” she finished.

“Huh?” they both looked at her in surprise.

“Pace,” she repeated. “I didn’t know you guys knew her.”

They both looked at her, shocked. Each was thinking about the things that Xiao You had told them about her.

“She’s avoiding her boyfriend too.

He’s in love with someone else.

Do you know that he hasn’t even said he loves her?”

Xiao You’s words ran through Mei Zhuo’s head.

All this time.

All this time, she had thought he was in love with someone else.

Had she been avoiding him all this time?

But, no, it couldn’t be. She had given herself to him.

That had been an act of love.

Unless . . . it had been goodbye.

His eyes sought Ximen’s for reassurance.

“She’s breaking up with her boyfriend.

She’s given up.

She loved this guy for ten years, but now she knows she can’t be with him.”

Xiao You’s voice was running through Ximen’s head.

“I want her to be happy in this marriage.

In having me, I want her to have everything.”

Mei Zhuo’s voice cutting in, talking about the plans he was making for Xiao Qiao. The love apparent in his voice for the entire world to hear.

His eyes lowered to the floor, wanting to avoid the pain he knew would be in Mei Zhuo’s eyes. He didn’t know what to say.

How do you tell a friend that the woman he has finally given his heart to has decided to leave him?

Mei Zhuo’s eyes closed in rejection of the proof before his eyes.

Ximen wouldn’t look at him.

That could only mean one thing, there was something more. Something worse than what he already knew.

“Poor girl. She’s decided to break up with her boyfriend,” Xiao You continued on, unaware of the pain she was inflicting on her listeners.

“She waited for this guy for 10 years and went out with him for one.

Not once did he say he loved her.

So she decided to leave him, but she decided not to tell him.

She wanted to spend the remaining time with him, and then she would have quietly left.

He can then go to the one he loves without any guilt,” she finished sadly.

“So, she would’ve left without saying goodbye? Without explaining?” Mei Zhuo asked hoarsely.

“Well, yeah, I guess. He wouldn’t be too bothered by it.

I have been meeting with her at her family resort on the coast over the past few months, and she told me that she doesn’t believe that he even feels a bit of love for her,” she confided. “But I convinced her to tell him. To really set him free, she needs to tell him clearly that she wants to break up because he doesn’t love her. She has to be honest so she can make a clean break.

“Why do guys say ‘I love you’ when they don’t mean it? Wouldn’t it be much easier if they didn’t?” she continued in a wondering tone.

“So, she doesn’t believe her boyfriend when he says it?” he asked quietly.

“No,” Xiao You replied.

That negative response was like a slap in the face.

He had told her ‘I love you’ so many times.

In so many ways.

His drunken confession. The way his body had worshipped hers. The countless messages he had left for her.

She had never believed him.

While he had been pouring his heart out to the only women he could, she was ignoring his love out of some misguided belief that he loved another. She hadn’t even asked him about it.

She didn’t trust him at all.

She didn’t know him at all.

His face clenched. His mouth was tight. He waited for the next blow to come.

“She signed an offer with Carnegie two months ago. She’ll be leaving in a month. But she’s breaking up with her boyfriend tonight. He’s here too,” Xiao You continued.

“Mei Zhuo—,” Ximen began.

“Don’t say anything,” Mei Zhuo interrupted. “There is nothing you could say that would make this alright. Nothing.”

“Look she’s coming over here,” Xiao You exclaimed, smiling in delight.

“I don’t know what instrument she plays though,” Xiao You finally said.

“The cello,” Mei Zhuo said quietly.

“Mei Zhuo,” Xiao Qiao said softly, smiling at him.

Her eyes moved over him.

He was so handsome.

But his good looks would have meant nothing if he hadn’t been a good man. He was the most wonderful man she had ever known. Ever would know.

She was only glad that she had had him for even this short amount of time. She wouldn’t be greedy.

As her eyes moved up his body, her heart cried at never being with him again.

She had tried.

But her upbringing . . . her love, wouldn’t let her cheapen their love by making love with him when he couldn’t offer her love, even if he was offering commitment.

As she looked at his beloved face, she noticed something was missing.

His characteristic smile was gone.

And . . . a certain “Mei Zhuo” sparkle.

For some reason it was gone.

Extinguished.

His eyes were dark . . . shadowed.

Funny, she had never really noticed it before. But now that it was gone, it felt like something really horrible had happened.

It felt like the end of the world.

“Xiao You,” Mei Zhuo said softly, “I want you to meet my girlfriend, Xiao Qiao.”

Xiao You’s widened in confusion. In shock. And then there was only horrified understanding . . . and guilt.

Guilt for what she had just done.

“Xiao Qiao,” he continued in a voice devoid of all emotion, “I want you to meet Xiao You, Ximen’s girlfriend.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

Mei Zhuo moved away. From Xiao Qiao, the one who had inflicted the pain, and his friends, who had witnessed it.

“Mei Zhuo,” he could hear Ximen calling him.

For the first time, he ignored his brother’s call.

Right now, the only thing that he could hear were his own cries of denial, resounding inside his head, drowning out every other thought.

Xiao Qiao and Xiao You watched Ximen follow Mei Zhuo out of the ballroom.

Xiao Qiao was confused. Something had happened, but she didn’t know what.

She turned to the girl she knew as Rainie. The girl who she thought had been a link outside of F4.

But it really was a small world.

“Well, Rainie, I didn’t expect to see you here,” she said softly.

Xiao You remained quiet. She was shocked at what she had just done, and she couldn’t begin to comprehend the pain he was going through right now.

As the silence continued, Xiao Qiao’s smile melted away.

Her eyes looked at the tears in Xiao You’s eyes, and something like dread began to well up.

“You didn’t—,” she began, hoping against hope that Rainie hadn’t said anything.

Xiao You’s nod cut her off.

Xiao Qiao turned in the direction that Mei Zhuo had gone.

She had to do something.

Without a plan, she raced down the hall to extinguish that look, what she now realized as pain, from his eyes.

Xiao You watched her go. She had really botched that up.

Up until this moment, up until the moment of the break up there had been hope.

Pace might have changed her mind.

But now, knowing the truth, would either of them be able to find their way back to each other?

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Xiao You quietly walked down the hall.

Ximen hadn’t returned.

For thirty minutes she had stood in a corner, thinking that she had done enough damage.

Mei Zhuo loved Xiao Qiao.

Xiao Qiao loved Mei Zhuo.

There should be no problem.

Right?

Wrong.

When she had finally looked into Mei Zhuo’s eyes, she had seen pain.

An incredible amount of pain.

There had been no emotions.

No disbelief.

No anger.

An utter blankness, where the Mei Zhuo they all knew and loved had existed.

His declarations of love had been real.

That made it all the worse.

To love someone. To say it. And then not to believed.

How could he forgive Xiao Qiao?

Would she even ask for forgiveness?

Everything was wrong.

But, she had talked to the others, and she had smiled.

She had pretended that nothing was wrong, when everything was.

She didn’t know how she could make it better.

But she knew that being this far away from Ximen was making her go crazy.

In the last two months, he had become a part of her identity.

She was dependent on him. The thought didn’t bother her.

He was just as dependent on her.

She needed him right now, so that they could formulate a plan to make everything alright. So it wouldn’t be so wrong.

So she wouldn’t have to think about the fact that she was the cause of this.

Xiao You continued moving down the hallway, in search of Ximen.

She knew they had come this way, but the maze of rooms quickly got her lost.

She tracked her way through the various rooms, searching for a hint or a clue.

The staff she saw had no idea where Ximen Shao Ye was.

She finally came upon a room with voices . . . with people.

As she peeked inside, she saw a couple making out.

Her mouth opened wide in shock, her eyes lowered in embarrassment, and she turned to leave.

Wait a minute.

Wasn’t Ximen wearing that color?

Her eyes went back to the couple.

Those were Ximen’s hands, and as they gripped the woman’s waist and pushed her away, Xiao You saw the face.

That was Ximen’s face.

Ximen’s face so close to another woman’s.

His lips warm from another’s touch.

His hands gripping her waist.

His eyes . . . his eyes were staring at her in shock.

Xiao You could only stare.

In shock at what she had just witnessed, she could only stand there.

Frozen.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Chapter 28

You’re My Angel

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I’m alone yeah I don’t know if I can face the night
I’m in tears and the crying that I do is for you
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Mei Zhuo swiftly moved through the ballroom and out. He could hear Ximen’s voice telling him to stop.

He didn’t stop. He didn’t want to hear it.

There was no comfort. Nothing Ximen could say that would lessen the pain.

In the past two months he had been living in a fool’s paradise. Xiao Qiao planned on leaving him.

Soon.

Without even saying goodbye.

Once again he felt helpless to change the situation around him.

Worthless. Everything he had done, everything that he had said, hadn’t been enough. She had heard him swear his love, but she had not believed him.

What was it about him?

Why couldn’t she have trusted him?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I want your love, let’s break the wall between us
Don’t make it tough, I’ll put away my pride
Enough’s enough, I’ve suffered and I’ve seen the light
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Xiao Qiao raced from the ballroom. She didn’t exactly know what Rainie or Xiao You had said to him, but she knew that it was bad.

Mei Zhuo hadn’t smiled. He hadn’t looked her in the eyes. He hadn’t cared.

She wanted to talk to him, to make him feel better.

She would do anything to bring the sparkle back into his eyes.

Mei Zhuo was a good man. He had it in him to be a great man. In the past year she had seen him change from the womanizer he used to be to a more serious man. He had always had these qualities in him. Something had just brought them to the surface.

He was capable of love. She knew he loved his brothers, and that he would do anything for them.

She remembered that night . . . so long ago now . . . when he had called her out in the middle of the night. She had run out, in a robe, to see what had happened.

She had only seen him a few days before, when he had saved her cello.

But she had never seen him like this.

He was so happy. He grabbed her, and hugged her. He had swept her off her feet, as he laughed out loud to express his joy.

She had asked what had happened. He had finally told her that Ah Si had gotten his memory back. He had to share it with someone.

He had pulled her into the car, and had just held her. Giving and taking warmth, and sharing his joy. He hadn’t known what the future might bring, but at that moment, with all the worries they had had, this was one less worry.

And only she could share that with him without reminding him of those other worries.

At that moment he had needed her. Even more than F3. That had meant something.

But he also loved Ai Sha. He must have, to have changed so drastically after meeting her.

She didn’t know how she knew, but he needed her now. She had hurt this man, and she would do whatever it took to take the pain away.

Whatever it took. There was no pride in love.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
You’re my angel come and save me tonight
You’re my angel come and make it alright
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Mei Zhuo sat at the bar, steadily getting more and more drunk.

Ximen had left a while ago, realizing that he needed to be alone to deal with this.

But he chose getting drunk over dealing with the situation.

He just wanted to forget for the night, for a while.

He could face the pain tomorrow. No matter what she said, he knew that Xiao Qiao couldn’t love him.

She couldn’t love him and still plan on deserting him.

What kind of love was that?

He had been planning . . . dreaming . . . pouring his love into her, and she had ignored it. She had ignored him.

She had hidden from him for two months. She had avoided his calls. She had lied to his face.

No. She didn’t love him.

That was the hardest thing to face. That even after ten years of fidelity, she could play him false now. That was the last thing he had expected from her.

There was no hope.

“Bartender, another gin and tonic.”

“Mei Zhuo Shao Ye, you’ve had more than enough. If you have any more . . .”

“I don’t care. Give me another drink now,” he angrily demanded.

What did he care what this would do to him. Forgetting was more important than anything else right now.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Don’t know what I’m gonna do about this feeling inside
Yes, it’s true loneliness took me for a ride
Without your love, I’m nothin but a beggar
Without your love, a dog without a bone
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Mei Zhuo. Can I talk to you?” Xiao Qiao requested.

Mei Zhuo froze on the barstool. He didn’t acknowledge her presence.

“Mei Zhuo, please,” she softly pleaded.

He looked up into the mirror behind the bar. He could see her shining beauty staring at him, pleading for him to turn around.

“Leave, Xiao Qiao,” he ordered quietly.

“I can’t. I can’t just leave you here. Please, let me tell you my side,” she insisted.

“So what Xiao You said wasn’t the truth? You weren’t going to break up with me? You weren’t going to leave within the month? You haven’t been hiding from me for the past two months? What part of that can be changed by hearing your side?” he harshly demanded.

Her hands reached out to touch him, to form a connection.

“Don’t touch me,” he growled, seeing her reflection in the mirror.

Xiao Qiao’s hand froze and then moved forward.

She moved forward, coming to his side.

She turned his face to look at her.

“Please, let’s get out of here. I want to talk. I want you to understand that this is the best for the both of us. It’s a good move for my career. Once I’m gone, you can tell your mother you tried. And then you can be with the one you really love.”

He turned to look at her, incredulously.

“What makes you—”

He couldn’t finish. Reaching out, he grabbed her by the upper arm, and pulled her out of the hotel lounge.

“You’re right. We do need to talk, but not here,” he said, swaying slightly.

“I’d like a room for the night,” he told the receptionist.

Xiao Qiao quietly watched as he signed for a room and got the key. She didn’t think to protest when he grabbed her arm once more and dragged her to the elevators.

They stood quietly in the elevator. Both thinking about what would be said and done in that room.

She realized that he was angry, that he was hurt. She understood that finding out the truth in front of his friends must have embarrassed him.

It must have hurt to be rejected once he had made the decision to commit to the woman his mother had chosen.

But she had to make him realize that this was the best for him. He needed to be with the one he loved. The one who shared his habits, who shared his likes and dislikes, the one who shared his heart and soul. He deserved love.

She shared none of those things. And if he couldn’t love her, then she wanted him to be with the woman he loved.

Once she explained, hopefully they could part ways. She did not want to leave him with a bad impression of herself.

All he thought of was revenge.

Of hurting her in the same way she had hurt him.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
What can I do, I’m sleepin in this bed alone
You’re my angel come and save me tonight
You’re my angel come and make it alright
You’re my angel come and save me tonight
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

They finally reached their room.

Xiao Qiao’s eyes closed in pain, when she realized that it was the same room they had had before.

Mei Zhuo dragged her inside, closing and locking the door at the same time.

He stared at her as she quietly stood in the center of the room.

His hands reached up to untie his tie, and then moved to take off his jacket.

“So, talk,” he finally said, when the silence continued.

Xiao Qiao’s eyes lovingly moved over him one last time, and she took a deep breath.

“I realize that it must have been humiliating to hear the news from Xiao You like that. I’m sorry I lied. I shouldn’t have hidden it from you. Yes, I have signed that contract, and yes I will be leaving within the month.

But this move is for us. It’s not just for me. I need to move on with something that I love.

“And you . . . you need to move on with the someone you love,” she finally said, clearing her throat over the last sentence.

“Who do you think it is that I love?” he asked softly, advancing on her.

Xiao Qiao backed away, unconsciously moving toward the door. She may have sensed the danger in the air.

“Ai Sha,” she finally whispered.

“And who told you that I loved her?” he said, continuing to advance toward her retreating form.

“That’s really not important is—it,” she squeaked, as she came up against the door.

“It is very important . . . I want to know who told this to you so I can understand why you would believe everybody else over me,” he said murmuring into her ear, as he came to lean over her, one arm braced above her head.

Xiao Qiao looked into his eyes. For the first time she noticed that he was drunk, and that he was angry.

“Ah Si,” she quickly answered, hoping to appease him.

“He told me about her and the dance contest and how you changed after she left. You loved her didn’t you,” she asked tearfully.

Mei Zhuo merely nodded at the information. He had already suspected that it would’ve been Ah Si. He could even guess when it had happened. He had immediately noticed the change in her back then, but, thinking he had nothing to do with it, he had tried to be the best boyfriend he could be.

But he was quickly losing interest in the subject at hand. His drunken mind could only react to her proximity.

“You said you loved me, but you love her. How could you not? She shares your interests. I’m sure she was beautiful, and you changed for her,” she continued.

He quickly bent down to inhale her intoxicating scent. She was looking at his neck, afraid that she would break down, and missed the act.

“Why? Why did you commit to this relationship? Why did you make me fall in love with you?” Xiao Qiao demanded angrily, her hands coming out to beat against his too close chest.

“I made you fall in love with me? I made you?” Mei Zhuo finally shouted at her, realizing what she was accusing him of.

“YOU have been in love with ME for the past ten years. You were the one how chased me until I said yes. Yet, you were going to leave me. Me? How could YOU do that, Yin Xiao Qiao?”

His hands reached out to grab her hair, and pulling it back, his mouth came to plunder hers.

She tried to break free. To make him stop.

He kissed her. He kissed her until her heartbeat was a crashing thunderclap inside her ribcage. She fought the hunger he was inciting, wild with fear that he would seduce her body once more, and what the aftermath of that conquest would be.

But he kept on kissing her with a wild, hot passion that bruised her soft lips against her teeth and suddenly, as he sent his tongue in a delving foray into the tender interior she had attempted to deny him, she was jolted by an uncontrollable surge of need that clawed cruelly at her, making her moan like a trapped animal.

Her head was swimming with dizziness when he let her come up for air. She was as weak as an accident victim, quivering with shock. She was now lying across his lap on the bed. His fingers were engaged in pulling down the straps of her dress. In horror at the sight, she clasped a small hand to his in an effort to stop him.

“Mei Zhuo, no!” she gasped, stricken.

“You’re mine,” he muttered thickly, one strong arm closing fiercely around her to stress the assurance, and he simply shifted his hand smoothly from beneath hers and slid it inside her bodice, slowly curving his fingers over the firm thrust of one unbound breast.

It had been so long since their last moments together. Her teeth clenched on the sweet pleasure-pain of her own helpless excitement, and in the interim her hand fell away. He tugged at the dress, exposing the smooth pale flesh he sought, discovering the delectable curve she had tried to conceal.

With an unashamed groan of hunger he caressed a pouting pink nipple with almost worshipping fingers, watching the bud bloom into aching prominence.

Her eyes were closed. “No . . . no,” she mumbled, lying back against his arm, struggling madly to control the electrifying response shooting through her.

“Exquisite . . . Your body wants me, even if you don’t,” Mei Zhuo murmured, his breath fanning her cheek and his fingers playing with her sensitized breasts.

A throbbing pulsebeat of terrifying hunger was controlling her now. Her mind was a desert, empty of every thought. Her entire being was centered on a knife-edge of anticipation. As the moist heat of his mouth engulfed a tender pink nipple, she gasped as though he had thrown an overload switch, lost to everything but what he could make her feel. With every sure caress, she sucked deeper into a whirlpool of passion, seduced by her own hunger to be with him.

“You are so beautiful,” he muttered reverently.

She wanted to return the compliment, but she couldn’t find her voice. She lifted a hand slowly and spread it against the warm wall of his chest, mesmerized by the power of her own craving and the thunder of his heartbeat beneath her palm. He bent his dark head, ran the tip of his tongue sensually along the full swell of her lower lip and came down beside her.

“Mei Zhuo . . .” it was a whisper of surrender so complete that she melted to liquid honey making it.

He found her reddened mouth tremulously open in welcome and responded to the invitation with a savage drugging intensity, which overwhelmed her. Her fingers smoothed through his long, silky hair, joy singing through her veins.

In one impatient movement his hand closed round the band of fabric at her narrow hips and wrenched it out of his path, tugging up her knees to facilitate the operation.

She shivered violently and twisted under the onslaught of his mouth as he parted her thighs and explored the hot, moist center of her. Deep in her throat she emitted a low cry, gripped by an intolerable pleasure that made her burn and quiver and shamelessly crave more.

With a raw groan of excitement that more than matched hers, Mei Zhuo knelt over her, ravishing her soft mouth one more time as if he was stamping her as his possession.

He pulled her to him with strong hands and instantaneously attempted to sink into her with one powerful thrust. There was a flash of momentary pain in her relatively untried body. Mei Zhuo muttered something softly, settled his hands on her hips and drove into her again, making her tender flesh yield more fully, and the sensation was so unbearably pleasurable that she moaned in shock and delight.

She had worked so hard at forgetting, had made herself forget, that most intimate moment.

But Mei Zhuo was inside her again in the place that was his alone, would remain his alone, and she wrapped her arms tightly round him in acceptance and welcome, letting him teach her that primitive rhythm she had yet to learn as he moved with a raw power that dominated and drove, allowing her no relief from the crazed spiral of excitement controlling her.

She hit that promised peak of glory in an astounded sunburst of pleasure that tore her apart as she jerked mindlessly beneath the waves of climactic release, crying out his name with tears of ecstasy in her eyes.

Mei Zhuo came down on her, nearly crushing what life remained from her, and then swiftly slid on his side, with one arm clamping her back to his hot, damp body.

Her cheek rested against a smooth shoulder and her nostrils flared on the warm, aromatic maleness of him. She was in a state not a hair’s breadth from heavenly bliss and there still wasn’t a single atom of activity in her brain.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
You’re the reason I live
You’re the reason I die
You’re the reason I give when I break down and cry
Don’t need no reason why
Baby, baby, baby
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Say it,” he finally whispered in the dark room.

“Hmm?” she mumbled, sleepily.

“Say that you’re mine, say you love me,” he ordered, as he softly kissed her hair.

“I love you, Ling Mei Zhuo. I’m your’s,” she finally said, after a small silence.

If this was what he wanted she was willing. After tonight she didn’t want to ever let him go. If he wanted her, and if their relationship was enough for him, then she was willing to commit to him.

Maybe her love would be enough for the both of them.

Maybe he could learn to love her one day.

Maybe.

“Promise me that you will never leave me,” he finally said.

“I promise to never leave you, not even if you hit me or kick me,” she finally said, happy for the first time.

She had set him free, and he had come back. He wanted to be with her, he wanted her to love him. And maybe, he would say he loved her.

She fell asleep awaiting a response from him.

Everything was alright now.

It had to be.

She was with the man she loved, and nothing could go wrong.

The next morning, Xiao Qiao awoke with a smile on her face.

The next morning she awoke to find him gone.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
You’re my angel come and save me tonight.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Chapter 29

Closer

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Xiao You took in the scene before her. Her eyes moved from Ximen’s face, down to his hands, gripping the woman’s waist, up to the woman’s face, reflected in the mirror.

He quickly let go.

–FLASHBACK—

Xiao You was so excited about tonight. Shan Cai was finally getting engaged to Dao Ming Si, to the love of her life.

When she thought about all the stuff that had happened to this couple, she could only sigh in relief that their problems were almost over.

Shan Cai would finally get to be with the man she loved without parental interference.

Xiao You had never seen her so happy.

She had taken the day off to prepare for the party. Shan Cai had insisted that the girls get together tonight for some girl bonding.

In reality it had been a fashion session, with both the girls getting fashion tips from Jing about what to wear and what not to wear.

Xiao You reluctantly parted with her glasses, with the assurance that she really wouldn’t need them tonight.

There was a knock on the door. Their escorts had come.

Shan Cai ran to open the door and there was Dao Ming Si smiling down at her.

The two stared into each other’s eyes, lost to the world.

“Ei, pighead, could you move,” Mei Zhou’s teasing voice could be heard in the background.

“Yeah, there are others here who want to see their girlfriends as well,” Ximen chimed in.

“Hey, if I’m going to be seeing you all smooching, Dao Ming Si is welcome to stay there,” Mei Zhuo retorted. “Dao Ming Si, don’t move. At least with him, we won’t have any funny business.”

“Ei, are you forgetting the proposal,” Ximen reminded Mei Zhuo, teasing the couple in question.

“Oh yeah,” Mei Zhuo laughingly said.

Shan Cai’s face began to get red.

“You pighead, what have you been telling them,” she shouted at Dao Ming Si, whacking him on the head.

“Ei, Shan Cai,” her poor fiancé protested, “they were there that day. How could they not notice? If you had let me go, I could’ve kicked them out.”

“Ei,” she shouted, horrified.

Ximen and Mei Zhuo had started laughing when they heard Ah Si’s protest.

“So, our hardworking, little virgin was the aggressive one, huh?” Mei Zhuo teased, pushing Ah Si aside.

As he turned to face Shan Cai, he was met with a whack on the head.

“Ei, Mei Zhuo,” she said, “you better stop it, or I’ll sic Dao Ming Si on you.”

Everyone broke out laughing as their eyes landed on the doorway, to find a blushing Dao Ming Si, completely speechless for the first time ever.

–End of FLASHBACK—

Xiao You’s eyes met the woman’s in the mirror.

She was the typical lady in red.

The lady was gloating. She was satisfied that she was finally in Ximen Zhong Er Lang’s arms. Her arms tightened around his neck.

The woman was beautiful, with the type of body that Xiao You could only dream of.

She was flawless. She was exotic.

No wonder that woman was in Ximen’s arms, while Xiao You stood outside the doorway, witnessing their passionate moments.

–FLASHBACK—

Ximen came into the room, and headed straight towards Xiao You.

His hands slipped into his suit pocket.

“I have a surprise for you, close your eyes,” he murmured into her ear.

As she obediently closed her eyes, Ximen took out a diamond bracelet and placed it around her arm.

“Ximen,” she gasped, when she opened her eyes, “this is too much.”

“Nothing is too much for the woman I love. I wanted to give you beautiful things to match your beauty, inner and outer,” he whispered into her ear, and bent down to kiss her.

It was now Dao Ming Si’s turn to tease Ximen along with Mei Zhuo.

“Ei, Mei Zhuo are you going to be bothering all of us, since Xiao Qiao isn’t around,” Ximen had laughingly asked.

“Hey, I’m only doing it so that you guys will call her and beg her to return. That way I’ll have less time to bother you. Good idea, right?” Mei Zhuo had asked.

“Where is she?” Shan Cai finally asked, having calmed down.

“Well, she was coming back today, but she couldn’t get a flight. At least, that’s what I heard from her mother,” Mei Zhuo muttered.

For a moment there was complete silence.

“All right, it’s time to go,” Lei’s soft voice broke the silence. “We wouldn’t want the guest of honors to be late and embarrass themselves.”

“Why not? They’ve embarrassed themselves plenty of times in public, haven’t they?” Mei Zhuo said.

“Mei Zhuo,” Shan Cai and Dao Ming Si shouted simultaneously, and ran after a laughing Mei Zhuo.

The others quietly followed, shaking their heads at yet another public spectacle in the making.

–End Of FLASHBACK—

Xiao You took a deep breath, as her arms came up to wrap themselves around her.

She felt as if she was warding off a chill.

Her hands felt the bracelet on her arm. The bracelet he had given her just this evening.

She raised her arm to stare at this present.

–FLASHBACK—

She had lightly fingered the bracelet all the way to the hotel. Her eyes refusing to leave the first ever gift he had given her after confessing his love.

She had quietly slipped it off on the car ride over, and had seen, engraved, the words “Xiao You, I love the most”. Tears had formed in her eyes.

Ximen had silently slipped his hand into hers, and gripped it for the rest of the ride over.

There had been silence. But there had been contentment in that silence.

-End Of FLASHBACK—

She finally looked away from the bracelet, and looked at the embracing couple standing before her eyes.

She took a deep breath.

Her first instinct had been to flee. But she couldn’t.

To flee was to say that she didn’t love Ximen.

To love was to trust.

And to trust was to believe in him.

To the point of disbelieving the scene in front of her own eyes.

She walked over to the still embracing couple.

Ximen was looking into her eyes. His were begging for her to understand. To believe in him.

Hers were completely blank.

Yes, she believed him, almost. But he shouldn’t have been caught in this situation in the first place.

“Leave,” she finally uttered.

There was complete silence.

“Didn’t you hear me, leave. Are you deaf as well as a man stealer?” Xiao You asked in a sarcastic tone.

Her hands came up to separate the two, and she pushed the woman toward the door.

There was complete silence as they watched the lady in red leave.

Xiao You turned to look at Ximen. Her eyes were expressionless, and her face wore a look of inquiry. Her right eyebrow slowly lifted, waiting for him to speak.

“Xiao You, listen to me, please,” he begged.

“Why should I? Should I thank god that I’m not married to you? Your wife would have to face situations like these ALL the time. Have you really changed Ximen?” Xiao You coolly asked.

He pulled her into his arms, and led her to a nearby sofa. He pushed her into seating, and then knelt down at her feet.

Leaning forward, he placed a kiss on her forehead. Her cheeks. And then moved toward her mouth.

Xiao You pulled away.

“Explain, Ximen,” she ordered.

“I don’t know her. I’ve never seen her before in my life. I was coming back to the ballroom when I heard someone crying. Loudly. So I came in to offer assistance. One minute she was crying about something, and the next we heard footsteps outside the door and she jumped at me. When I finally pulled away, I saw you,” he hurriedly explained.

Xiao You kept quiet, but made sure to keep her expression receptive to whatever he said next.

“I’ve made a commitment to you, Xiao You. I would never knowingly break your heart. Trust me, please,” he softly begged.

His voice broke as he said these words.

Tears began to form in Xiao You’s eyes.

Ximen was panicking. He had more than enough black marks against him, with the kind of past he had. And he was afraid that this one might be the one that would break the camel’s back.

He didn’t know how to convince her that he was innocent when so often in the past he hadn’t been.

Xiao You leaned forward, and looked into his eyes. They were sparkling with unshed tears.

She did trust him. But his words had erased that little ounce of doubt that had existed. She really did trust him.

But she wanted something tonight, and he would, out of guilt, give it to her.

“Let’s go,” she said, getting up off the sofa.

“Where,” he asked.

“No questions,” she ordered, and left the room.

“Stay here,” she told him, leaving him by the elevators.

As he waited, Xiao You went and got a room for the night.

Ximen’s eyes widened when he realized where they were going.

Xiao You had asked for the same room they had been in on their pretend date.

He looked at her questioningly, as they stood outside the doors.

“You say that you love me, then prove it,” she said, smiling up at him.

“I know things are horrible right now for them, but please, I need to be with you tonight,” she murmured into his ear.

Ximen’s eyes had widened in shock.

He had asked for her trust. And she was showing him that he had it in the most primeval of ways. She was giving him her virginity without any commitment on his part.

Xiao You pulled him inside and locked the door behind them.

“You don’t have to do this,” he murmured into her hair, his arms tight around her.

In gratitude. In love. In relief.

“Don’t you want me,” she asked tearfully, using her secret weapon.

Ximen’s eyes blazed with desire. The trouble was that he wanted her too much. He was afraid that he would only end up hurting her.

“Make love to me,” she whispered into his ear. She pushed off his suit jacket, and pulled off his tie.

Reaching up, she kissed him softly on the lips and pulled him into the bedroom.

A part of her was excited, but another part of her was afraid. So scared of what was to come.

But she knew that she had almost lost him tonight. Not through his actions, but her own fear. She had been so afraid there, at that moment, that she would lose him.

This was her way of showing him that she trusted him. That she loved him. But, also a way for her to bind him to her. She wanted to form a physical connection along with their spiritual connection.

It would make her feel safer.

Xiao You pushed Ximen back onto the bed. She turned off the lights and turned to him.

This time she didn’t wait for him to undress her.

This time she took the initiative.

Xiao You reached behind her, and pulled down the zipper of her dress. Her eyes never left his, as she slipped off her undergarments as well.

Sooner than even she had expected, she was naked before his eyes.

Ximen drank in the sight of Xiao You’s nude body. The vision threatened to swamp all his senses. The moonlight gleamed softly on the curves of her small, high breasts and the lush flare of her thighs. The dark triangle of hair that shielded her secrets mesmerized him.

She came to him.

She settled slowly on him like soft, warm tropical rain. She brushed her mouth gently, tentatively across his. He could feel her breasts pressed against him.

She was making love to him. His innocent Xiao You was making love to him.

The last remnants of his control vanished.

Ximen wrapped her in his arms, turned her, and crushed her into the bedding. He heard her soft, startled cry, and then she was clinging to him, clutching wildly at his shoulders. He felt her nails on his back.

He reached down between her legs and found her hot and wet and ready for him. He reached for a condom as she began to unbutton his shirt.

Foreplay. The voice inside his head was very insistent. Women liked foreplay. Lots of foreplay. He, Ximen Zhong Er Lang, was having trouble with that concept right now.

“What’s wrong?” Xiao You sounded frantic now, but eager.

Definitely eager. Not terrified.

“Foreplay,” Ximen muttered, “supposed to be foreplay.”

“We can do it later, can’t we? Make it afterplay.”

She yanked at his zipper. “Ximen I can’t wait, I’ve never felt this way before.”

He sucked in his breath as she jerked open his pants. But no damage was done. His hands shook violently, and she had to help him put on the condom.

He watched her frown intently over the task. Her sweet, innocent awkwardness was electrifyingly erotic. Each tug, each touch, each delicate fumble translated into a caress that threatened to make him explode.

Then he was finally, achingly, ready, and she was waiting for him, reaching for him.

She wanted him.

The wonder of it stole his breath. This beautiful, innocent woman wanted HIM. Ximen, the one who had hurt her so many times.

Xiao You lifted herself, opening for him, inviting him into her warmth. The hot, moist, womanly scent of her body took him onto a journey to the heart of creation.

Ximen covered her mouth with rough urgency. Her lips parted for him. He drove himself into her body, pushing past the delicate resistance that he met. She was tight. Unbelievably tight. Then he was inside, and she was holding him so snugly that he could not tell where his body ended and hers began.

He moved within her, sinking deeper and deeper into her heat. Her legs closed around him. He felt her nails score his back.

Xiao You screamed softly, a passionate cry of release that Ximen knew he would never forget as long as he lived. It was the most beautiful song in the world.

But there was little time to enjoy the erotic notes. The tiny tremors of her climax tugged at him, demanding that he follow her into the vortex.

He couldn’t have resisted even had he wanted to try. And resisting Xiao You’s sweet summons was the last thing he wanted to do.

He let all control go, and she welcomed him with open arms.

There was complete silence in the room.

“Did I hurt you?” he finally asked.

He didn’t know what had happened. He was Ximen. He was a legendary lover. Yet, when it came to Xiao You, there had been no foreplay, no sweet words, no worry about her virginity, and almost no condom.

He didn’t know what had happened. She had so utterly seduced him, that he had forgotten everything but the basics.

His only need had been to be inside of her, to become a part of her.

“If you did, I didn’t notice,” she finally said, shyly.

He softly chuckled, and leaned over to place a soft kiss on her forehead.

Turning over, he gathered her into his arms, and relaxed.

Xiao You was truly his, and nothing and no one would take her away. She trusted him, that was all he needed.

Xiao You closed her eyes. She had never known this much pleasure, but behind that there was even greater pleasure in the thought that Ximen was even more closely tied to her.

They would be together. Nothing and no one would take him away.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Chapter 30

Will You? – Part II

The Correct Way to Propose:

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Rrrriiinnnggg. Rrrriiinnnggg. Rrrriiinnnggg. Rrrriiinnnggg.

Hi. I can’t answer the phone right now. Please leave a message after the beep. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Dial tone.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“I need time.”

Xiao Qiao stared at the note in her hand. Lifting her eyes she gave one final look into the empty room, and then closed the door quietly behind her.

Her hand unconsciously crumpled the note.

Time.

What did he mean by time?

Time to forgive her for her unintended rejection? She had never meant to reject him; she had thought that once she left he would happily go to Ai Sha.

And Ai Sha would most likely be waiting. Who wouldn’t wait for Mei Zhuo?

She hadn’t expected his reaction.

When he had kissed her, and had taken her into his arms she had only thought of new beginnings. She had thought of a future that would now include him.

She had never thought that he would reject her after making her dream once again.

As she moved toward the hotel lobby, she was only half aware of her surroundings.

She felt like a woman of the night. She felt used. His quiet departure had made her feel this way.

She swiftly turned her head when she heard familiar voices coming down the hall.

Her eyes widened when she saw Ximen and Rain—no, Xiao You, coming out of a hotel room.

She didn’t want anyone to see her in her current state. She quickly hid behind a conveniently tall plant in the corner of the hallway.

As she watched them moving down the hallway, she felt a stab of envy.

They were only aware of each other. Their senses were only attuned to one another. His arm was around her, and her fingers were clutching his other hand.

Their faces wore the satisfied look of being well loved. She knew exactly what that look was.

She had seen it on her face this morning. It made her wonder. If things hadn’t gone so horribly wrong, how would they have greeted the morning?

Would Mei Zhuo have turned to her with need once more?

Would that awakening in his arms have felt natural?

Would that have been the beginning of their new life together?

They would never know.

Mei Zhuo wanted time, but that was something she couldn’t give him.

It was too late.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Rrrriiinnnggg. Rrrriiinnnggg. Rrrriiinnnggg.

. . . . . .

“I’m sorry. Madam has not arrived home yet. Would you like to leave a message?”

Dial tone.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Xiao Qiao entered the mansion.

She had spent hours driving around, thinking about last night, before deciding to head on home.

Pain flowed through her, over her, in continuous waves. And she didn’t know how to escape it.

She had hurt him. She knew it wasn’t his heart that was hurt. She might have hurt his pride.

In trying to understand what had happened, she could only conclude that he had wanted to hurt her. To get revenge for something that was a natural mistake.

It had been natural. He hadn’t confessed his feelings for the full year they had been going out, and the moment he had chosen was when he was the most drunk.

How else could she have taken it?

As she realized the position he had put her in, she began to get angry.

He had no right to vengeance.

He had let her down more. She had invested more than half her lifetime in loving him. How had she been rewarded?

With a possible future together, his body and two wonderful nights, but no heart.

Her face flushed as she walked into her house.

If her parents found out about what had happened last night, they would be so disappointed in her. They had always had high hopes for her. They had always expected a lot from her. And she may have let them down this time.

She slowly walked up the stairs, ignoring what Butler Liu was saying. She wasn’t in the mood to listen.

Pain and anger fought inside of her, leading her to ignore everything around her as she tried to deal with her mentally chaotic state.

There was an irritating buzzing noise near her head. She reached out and stopped it.

She didn’t want to listen to anything else . . . talk to anyone else. Not until she had completely dealt with this new blow.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Rrrriiinnnggg. Rrrriiinnnggg. Rrrriiinnnggg.

. . . . . .

The phone was picked up . . .

“Hel—”

And abruptly slammed back down.

“Damn it!”

Dial tone.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

As dusk slowly approached, Xiao Qiao finally got up from her bed.

She had spent the day alternating between crying and ranting at the idiot who had broken her heart.

She was done.

No more.

Her restless steps took her towards her bedroom door. She needed to be somewhere.

As she passed the mirror, she realized what state she was in. Rushing back inside, she freshened up enough so that at first glance no one would know she had spent the day crying.

As she got into the car, she only had one destination in mind.

She would go to the place where Mei Zhuo had taken her.

That was the place where her hope had been born.

Mei Zhuo had brought her to a place that he thought she would like.

He had expressed his jealousy over her cello.

He had jumped into the lake to save that same cello so that she wouldn’t be sad.

She had dreamt for the first time that he could actually care for her. He could actually love her.

Yes, that was the place where her hope had been born.

That was where it would die.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Rrrriiinnnggg. Rrrriiinnnggg. Rrrriiinnnggg.

“She’s not picking up,” Mei Zhuo grumbled when Lei picked up.

“Do you trust in your love?” Lei quietly asked.

“Of course I do,” Mei Zhuo answered.

“Then stop worrying. She’ll be there,” Lei said in a reassuring tone.

“I can’t do this,” he grumbled again into the telephone. “This is just too hard.”

“Come on, Mei Zhuo, you love her don’t you? Just practice some more. She deserves this after all the insecurities you put her through.”

“But—”

“No buts. You told me what she believed. You even see how you could be at fault for this. Now, more than ever, she needs this from you. She deserves it. It may have been unintentional, but you did put her through hell.”

“Man, I didn’t know you would be lecturing me like this when I told you what happened last night. I should’ve just gone to Ah Si,” Mei Zhuo finally said.

“You can imagine the trouble he would’ve gotten you into,” Lei laughingly answered. “So, is everything ready?”

“Yeah. Or it would be if she would answer the damn phone.”

“Don’t worry, that’s the least of your worries. I didn’t have to call Jing and Ah Si didn’t have to call Shan Cai. She’ll show up, don’t worry. Just practice. You don’t want to flub it like Ah Si did his proposal.”

“Don’t knock it. He got a lot more than he expected. And he wasn’t complaining,” Mei Zhuo answered.

Mei Zhuo finally hung up the phone.

Last night had been full of revelations. He had gone to that hotel room to make love with Xiao Qiao, and then leave. To leave her the way she had left him that first time. Initially he had wanted to hurt her.

But in the process he had realized that he loved her too much to let her go. In those early morning hours, before he had fallen asleep, he had finally been able to push the pain away to understand what she had gone through in the past few months.

It wasn’t like he didn’t share part of the blame. He should’ve said he loved her earlier. He should’ve said it in a better way. He should’ve said it so that she would believe. He had been stupid as well, but tonight would make up for that.

But in his excitement to prepare everything, he had left her exactly as she had left him.

He didn’t doubt that his actions must have hurt her. He had only realized it after the fifth unanswered call that she must be avoiding him again.

Now, everything was ready for her. He was ready to make it up to her.

If only she showed up.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Xiao Qiao got out of her car and slammed the door shut.

It was completely dark by the time she reached their special place. She could see the stars and the bright moon in the night sky. They provided enough light that she didn’t feel afraid being alone. The funny thing was that she could never feel alone in this place.

His memories wouldn’t let her.

As she neared the lake, she saw lights glowing near the edge of the water. As she moved closer, her eyes widened when she saw the table placed near the steps. The steps where she had talked with Mei Zhuo that day, long ago.

She saw the candles. She saw the flower centerpiece, and the carpet of petals at her feet leading to the table. She saw the box in the center of the table, and her heart stopped.

It seemed that all hope hadn’t completely died.

Reaching the table, she turned around, moving her eyes across the dark expanse behind her.

There was complete darkness, but she could feel his presence.

He was nearby.

Slowly the strains of a cello began to rise above the sounds of the gentle waves.

It was her favorite piece. The one she had played the first time they had officially met at her private recital.

Her knees gave out. She sat back in a chair, trembling, unable to grasp what was really happening.

She had come here to bury all hope, and once again he had surprised her. And she was beginning to believe.

The beautiful notes moved across the distance between them, sounding magical to her ears.

There was a sudden screech . . . brief silence . . . a muffled curse . . . then the music continued.

It was Mei Zhuo.

Tears welled up in Xiao Qiao’s eyes. This was his surprise. The flowers, the candlelight, and the ring were mere side dressing to the true labor of love.

He was playing out there for her. He had practiced and learned for her. The level of his skill hinted at the hours of practice that had gone into making this a truly successful gift.

Xiao Qiao’s hand moved up to cover her mouth, holding back a sob.

He hadn’t rejected her. He hadn’t left her. He hadn’t sought vengeance.

He was sitting two yards away from her, playing his heart out.

He finished, and there was complete silence.

Xiao Qiao towards the source of the music and began to clap.

She continued to clap, waiting for him to appear.

He finally did.

His face wore a sheepish grin, and his hands . . . his hands held her beloved cello.

Xiao Qiao’s eyes widened.

“I just thought that since you have poured your love out to this cello for the past ten years, it was only fair that it express my love for you,” he explained.

Xiao Qiao quietly looked at him, unable to express the emotions welling up inside of her.

He set it aside, and got down on one knee.

Xiao Qiao looked down out at him, and reaching out, ran her fingers through his silky hair.

“I love you,” he finally said, breaking the silence. “I love you.”

“I—”

“No, let me finish. I know you think I am in love with Ai Sha. And to you it makes sense. Ai Sha and I are alike, and I was depressed when she left. But I don’t love her. I love you.”

“But—

“Shh. I said, me first. I know you fear that we’re very different. But we fit together. Ai Sha taught me about the possibilities of falling in love. But you . . . you taught me about being in love. You taught me how to love. You touched my heart.

Yes, Ai Sha and I could dance together, but you create the music in my life. Without you there would be no music, and I would have no rhythm. Xiao Qiao you are my muse . . . you inspire me to be something more. Because of you I’ve found a Mei Zhuo that I never even knew existed. That Mei Zhuo loves you.

You said that you loved me for ten years. But how did I know that you didn’t love some ideal that you had had ten years to create. I had to give you time to know this Mei Zhuo. And, I guess I became complacent. I forgot to say I love you because it was so much a part of me that I didn’t think there was any way you could not know.

And last night I realized something. Without you I’m completely lost. If I don’t have you, I don’t have my heart . . . I would lose my soul. I need you to be with me.

Yin Xiao Qiao, will you marry me?”

Xiao Qiao listened to every word. Here was the moment she had been waiting for the past 11 years. Yes, parts of the confession were a bit more cheesy than she expected, but it was all sincere.

He had finally said he loved her. He needed her. He wanted her.

And she believed him.

“Yes,” she quietly answered, once again fighting the tears that were choking her.

Mei Zhuo laughed exuberantly. Getting up, he grabbed her around the waist, and twirled her around.

“You said yes! You agreed! You can’t ever take it back,” he shouted.

As he circled around, Xiao Qiao clutching at him, he stumbled.

“Oh shi—

There was a loud splash.

The water from their landing in the lake doused the candles.

There was complete silence.

There was complete darkness.

“Don’t worry . . . the cello is OKAY.”

As the waves lapped gently against the shore, and the wind gently blew across the land, laughter could be heard.

Deep joy could be heard in that laughter.

And peace. There was finally peace.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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